The Abyss Named Shirley – Looking In To See All of Who I Am

who I am working in the city after university

I have an Abyss.  That place I tuck all the things that frighten me, that make me feel small.  The memories  that make me cringe, years later,  reminding  me that I’m completely irrelevant to the real word.   I’ve even named my Abyss.  Shirley, the Abyss.

Shirley holds all my fears.  All my hopes I don’t dare voice.  My moments of embarrassment.  My times of failing.  Those events in my life that I can’t bear to ever look at again, are all buried in my friend, the Abyss named Shirley.

Shirley has grown throughout my 54 years of life.  She safely holds the heartbreak of my first love; the bullying from grade school.  The horror of discovering that I was not loveable, funny, smart enough, committed enough, too fat, too slow.  Those times I was told to “shush” because I was laughing too loud, sharing too much, loving too hard.  Shirley was the safekeeper of all the nightmares that filled my waking life.

Shirley – My Abyss

Funny thing about Abyss’s:  They like to spit things out every once in a while.  “Hey, Tracy!” Shirley says,  “Remember that time you said that thing to that thing to that one guy and he didn’t laugh at your joke?  Remember how you thought you were so funny, but you weren’t??  Remember that??”  And suddenly, I remember.   I remember it all – not just that moment, but the next one, and the next and the next……..

I’ve tried ignoring Shirley, and I’ve discovered something.  Abyss’s don’t like to be ignored.  Just when I feel like I’m forgetting my past, Shirley rears up again, with yet another reminder.  And I fall into her, once again, spinning through my history, feeling like the events just happened.  I feel the same embarrassment, the same sinking feeling, the same hollow ache in my heart – somehow those feelings never seem to dissipate, no matter how many years ago the actual event occurred.  All thanks to my friend, Shirley.

Staring Into The Abyss

And then one day, instead of ignoring Shirley, I decided to open her up and actually look at her.  I gathered up as much courage as I could muster, and I peeked, ever so slightly, over the edge of my Abyss.  She was deep.  But to my great surprise, she wasn’t dark.  She wasn’t terrifying.  Well, not too terrifying, anyway.   And that’s when things got interesting.

I realized that my Abyss was swirling with colors!  It was mesmerizing!.  She was full, not just with the nightmares of my life, but the moments of joy, the moments of unrestrained laughter.  The first time I saw the beautiful eyes of my children as they lay on my breast after they were born.  The tender moments when I felt so very loved. The occasions I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw.  The quiet moments of a blue sky or a starry night.    I didn’t realize I had tucked those moments into her, as well.

Shirley, the Abyss,  had lovingly stored every single one of my memories.  Now, as I looked ever deeper into the heart of Shirley, I didn’t hear mocking words,  but rather the gentle whisper of “Remember?  Do you remember?  Do you know how much you are loved?  Look at your family!  Look at your friends!  And look at the world you created.  Oh sweet friend,” she whispers “look how beautiful you are”.  It’s interesting to me to know that I had spent years hiding my joys away, in the same bag as I was hiding my sadnesses.

All of Who I Am

I slowly began to look even deeper into my Abyss.  There was so much love hidden inside of her.  So much beauty.  So much talent and creativity.  But since I was afraid of these things, I deposited them into my hiding spot, Shirley.  And she kept them for me.   She kept my memories as fresh and bright as the day they happened.  All I had to do was reach in, take hold of them, and shake out the wrinkles.  They were perfect!  They were everything I ever needed to know.  I discovered that the dark memories and the light memories all were snuggled up together in my Abyss.  Waiting to be seen, waiting to be acknowledged.  Waiting to be brought back into my whole self.

And I came to realize that I am no longer just an awkward child, a terrified mother, an angry wife.  I am  those things. But I am also a lonely child, a loving mother, a heartbroken wife, a generous friend.  I am an artist, a writer, an adventuress.   And yes I am a passionate lover, a woman filled with spirit and hope and curiosity.    I don’t have to fear the depth of my Abyss; there isn’t anything to fear.   It is simply my life.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Every single swirling vapor  inside my Abyss is simply me.

Living With The Whole of My Abyss

And once I start bringing all the memories together, the good and the bad, the puzzle starts to come together, and I find myself becoming a whole person.  It’s a slow process, I wish it weren’t.  It’s hard looking into the Abyss.   I don’t know that it will get easier through time, but it does seem as though it gets more comfortable.  I’m less frightened of it, now.  But only a little less.

The embarrassing moments haven’t quit popping into my head.  My Abyss is nothing if not generous with her gifts!  But ever since I peeked over the edge, I am now also gifted with  the memories of tenderness, and laughter; moments that fill my heart to bursting.  I now know that my Abyss is full of light, and love,  darkness and tears. She is me and I am she.  I am as deep as Shirley, the Abyss, and as colorful, full of life, full of love, and with so much room to grow.

This guest post was authored by Tracy Cottle

Tracy Cottle  believes in traveling the world, tasting all the wines, petting all the cats, and coming home to Northern Utah to love up on her 3 amazing kids. Her laugh is infectious, and she shares it freely.  Tracy is forging her path, and loving every exciting moment of it.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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